You know how something horrible can eventually become something hilarious? It may takes months or even years, but, with enough time, even the most-mortifying-moment-of-your-life can morph into a favorite family story that always results in you and your sisters laughing until one of you snorts (I love when that happens).
While I doubt any part of being unemployed will ever result in that kind of laughter, I’m already able to look back at my first month at home and see the benefit of having some time on my hands.
- The fun of finding it for free – I’ve always known our public library was a gateway to all sorts of free stuff, but I never took the time to investigate and learn how, where, and what I’d find. Now, I visit once a week to pick up two or three DVDs for our boys to choose from on “movie nights” (Friday and Saturday) and they are just as thrilled as if I’d gone to a RedBox. I’ve also mastered their digital library and started borrowing e-books for the kindles our boys got for Christmas, successfully muting the “But I’ve already read everything!” response when I tell them to go and read something.
- Teachable moments – My efforts at cutting our spending and committing to finding things free or on sale have given me lots of opportunities to talk with our boys about the value of money. Without delving into the details of what our future might look like if I don’t find employment soon, I’ve asked for their help in saving and stretching our money. We talk a lot about waiting to buy the things we want versus the things we need. We clip and organize coupons and I show them what I spend at the grocery versus what I would have spent if we didn’t plan our trip and look for ways to save on what we buy. At the same time, we talk a lot about how much we have when compared to the rest of the world, and I don’t hesitate to echo the well-worn phrase, used by parents for generations: “There are children in Africa who would be thrilled to have what you have!”
- Grease for the squeaky wheel – Our lovable mutt, Murphy, always gets the short end of the stick when it comes to our attention. We’ve learned that ignoring your dog comes at a price – in our case, lots of barking, because even negative attention is better than none, right? I hesitate to type this, in case I jinx it, but my being at home has given me the time and patience to be more consistent in how we respond to her little tirades. While there’s no Westminster Dog Show in our future, at least I’m no longer threatening to sell her to the zoo (something I think our youngest was convinced might happen).
- Enough time – When a friend offered to watch our boys one night this weekend so my husband and I could go out together, it struck me: for the first time in our 11 years as parents, I feel like we have enough time together. Enough time to get on the same page and truly have each other’s back as partners/parents; enough time to talk about things, monumental or mundane, to become a stronger couple; and enough time for ourselves, for our avocations and aspirations and all the things that get sacrificed at the altars of marriage and parenthood.
Then there are the clean closets and organized toy bins and crockpot meals – all of which my husband insists would still happen, whether I was employed or not. And he’s right, to a degree, but I notice the difference. The chair next to my side of the bed is no longer piled with a week’s worth of work clothes, yanked off the minute I came home, as if I needed a Silkwood shower to wash the crappy day off of me. The washer and dryer run at a reasonable hour, instead of my starting them at midnight, in a vain attempt at feeling like I’d accomplished something before going to bed. And the toy bins now hold what our boys play with most frequently, which I learned only because now I’m around to see them play.
Yeah, the cat’s in the cradle, my friends.
Most people look closely at the benefits a new job can offer – especially in an economy where salaries don’t always pay us what we’re worth. Today, all I can think is I’ll be hard-pressed to find a job that can compete with the benefits of unemployment – but I’ll be glad to be employed again, just the same.